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1 Corinthians 15:23-28 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:59 mins 6 secs

The Coming of Christ: Parousia and the Kingdom; 1 Cor. 15:23-28


1 Corinthians 15:23 NASB "But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming." Notice it doesn't say those who are "in Christ" at His coming. That would be a clear indication that this verse was talking about the Rapture. One of the problems that we run into is that many have taken this word parousia [parousia] as a technical term for the Rapture, but that is not true.

To what does parousia refer? Frequently, but not always, a word is defined by its first usage. The first time the word is used in the New Testament is in Matthew 24:3 NASB "As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things happen, and what {will be} the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'" They are not asking what will be the sign of the Rapture, there are no signs for the Rapture. In this case parousia refers to the second coming of Christ when He returns to the earth to establish His kingdom. Verse 27 uses the word again: "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man be." [37] "For the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah." So in Matthew 24 the word refers to the second advent. Verse 39 uses it again.

The next time the word is used is in 1 Corinthians 15:23. In 1 Corinthians 16:17 it is used again" NASB "I rejoice [parousia] over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part." He we see it has to do with arrival, a major nuance in the word. It has to do with their presence. It has the same idea in 2 Corinthians 7:6 NASB "But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming [parousia] of Titus." 2 Corinthians 10:10 NASB "For they say, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence [parousia] is unimpressive and his speech contemptible." So we see from the use of this word that its core meaning has to do with arrival and coming to someone, but not just that instant moment of arrival but the ongoing presence after that arrival. Philippians 1:26 NASB "so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming [parousia] to you again." Philippians 2:12 NASB "Phil 2:12  So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence [parousia] only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling." There the contrast is with absence.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 NASB "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?" In English we have two words there: presence and coming. The word "presence" is the Greek word emprosthen [e)mprosqen]; the word "coming" is also parousia. That would refer to the Rapture because this is talking about church age believers and their presence at His coming. 1 Thessalonians 3:13 NASB "so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus with all His saints." This verse does not refer to the Rapture because this is talking about the presence of the Lord when He comes with all His saints. At the Rapture He doesn't come with anyone. It is at the second coming that He comes with His bride, the church. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 NASB "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming [parousia] of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep." This is the key passage on the Rapture. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 NASB "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thessalonians 2:1 NASB "Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him." So the word parousia is a general word for coming and it is necessary to look at the context to see what the word means in each one of these verses. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 uses the word with reference to the Lord's return when he destroys the Antichrist. NASB "Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming [parousia]."

In James 5:7, 8 it is used twice: NASB "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming [parousia] of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming [parousia] of the Lord is near." 2 Peter 1:16 NASB "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty." This is not a reference to either the second coming or the Rapture, it is a reference to the incarnation of Christ at the first advent. 2 Peter 3:4 NASB "and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming [parousia]? For {ever} since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation'." This is a statement made by those who have rejected the truth of Scripture, the sceptics.

1 John 2:28 NASB "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming [parousia]," a reference to the Rapture.

Arndt and Gingrich: The word has two basic meanings. First, it is the state of being present, "with presence." Second, it emphasized the arrival as the first stage in an ongoing presence or advent.

So 1 Corinthians 15:23, "But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming." Actually the Greek doesn't say "those who are Christ's." What there is is an ellipsis where we have simply "those of Christ's at His coming." It is not the statement "those who are in Christ" but those who are Christ's. That could include believers of all generations because Christ died for everyone. So this is not a term that necessarily restricts the meaning to church age believers only. What happens at the second coming? Christ arrives on the earth and His presence remains as the ruler of the Messianic kingdom, so that would include Millennial saints who are resurrected during the Millennium, or even if it is at the end of the Millennial kingdom because the word parousia would include the presence of Christ on the earth.

We have further support contextually in verse 24 when we read, "then {comes} the end [teloj], when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power." The teloj here is defined as when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father. Matthew 24:6 "… but that is not yet the end [teloj]" is referring to the Tribulation just before the arrival of Christ at the second coming, whereas 1 Corinthians 15:24 is talking about an "end" where He hands over the kingdom to God the Father. The handing over of the kingdom to God the Father doesn't take place until the end of the Millennial reign, not at the beginning.

1 Corinthians 15:28 NASB "When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all." This verse gives us the key to being able to identify who the "he's" and the "him's" are earlier in the passage. Look at the last phrase: "the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all." Who is this who subjected all things to Him? That must be God the Father. So when we have the verb "subjected" it is ultimately God the Father; "to Him" is Jesus Christ. Then when we look at verse 27: "For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him," the first "HE" must refer to God the Father. He is the one who is ultimately putting all things into subjection, and the putting something under feet was a military idiom for conquest in the ancient world. The feet belong to Jesus Christ. So the "HE" refers to the Father and the "HIS" refers to Jesus Christ.

Backing up to 1 Corinthians 15:25 NASB "For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet." It is the Son who reigns on the earth. This is a reference to Psalm 8:6, and perhaps it is an allusion to Psalm 110:1 which is a reference to the Son sitting at the right hand of the Father until He has made His enemies His footstool. This takes place during the church age and the seven-year Tribulation. The session begins to end at the Rapture and completes its ending at the second coming of Jesus Christ. Then we have the rule of Christ on the earth. Notice: Christ isn't reigning in Psalm 110:1 when He is seated; he doesn't begin to reign until He takes the Davidic throne at the beginning of the Millennial kingdom. "For He [the Son] must reign until He [the Father] has put all His enemies under His feet." So there is a session period where God the Father is making Christ's enemies His footstool, and that includes the church age period and then the wrapping up during the seven year Tribulation. Then there is a final stage which takes place during the Millennial kingdom when the last enemy will be abolished, which is death. The last enemy is abolished when the last believer is raised from the dead. At that point physical death and its consequences are abolished. 1 Corinthians 15:26 NASB "The last enemy that will be abolished is death." This is at the end of the Millennial kingdom when all principalities and powers and authorities and rulers are ultimately defeated and Satan is finally and permanently sentenced to the lake of fire.

Everything is finally put under the authority of God. This brings the angelic conflict to a conclusion. The angelic conflict began when Satan rebelled against the authority of God. Every time we rebel against the authority of God, every time we question God's goodness, every time we question God's plan, every time we question God's fairness, we are just playing along with Satan's plan. We must recognize that the issue in the angelic conflict is unqualified obedience to God, and to demonstrate that. We may never understand why we go through some of the suffering, some of the heartaches, some of the difficulties that we go through in life; but part of it is to be a witness in the angelic conflict and to demonstrate that the creature can only find stability and happiness, not matter what the circumstances are, by being in complete obedience to the Father.

So finally all this happens at the end of the Millennial kingdom. All things are put in subjection, i.e. in subordination to the authority of God the Father. So God the Father works in this to bring everything in subjection to the Son, then the Son gives everything to the Father. So Paul concludes: "So that God may be all things with reference to all creatures," v. 28. That restores everything to the proper position of the creature recognizing the authority of the creator.